Despite broad differences between the House and Senate budgets, Speaker Thom Tillis says he sees room for compromise in the days ahead.
One area he is willing to change: using the lottery money for teacher pay raises.
In an interview after the House gave it a preliminary nod, Tillis said there are ways to move the money around.
“We have a way to fund it through other sources so if that became a major problem, we could still assume that that money came into the general fund but there are other ways we could bridge that gap,” he said.
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Senate budget writers don’t increase lottery revenues in their budget and contend the House budget doesn’t properly account for Medicaid costs.
Tillis said the budget proposal has been well received, including by Gov. Pat McCrory.
“I think we go into the process with a very good proposition,” he said. “It’s one I believe our governor supports and we hope that our colleagues in the Senate will work with us and get this conferenced out next week.”
Eight Democrats voted with Republicans to pass the budget: Reps. Marcus Brandon of High Point, William Brisson of Dublin, Tricia Cotham of Matthews, Ken Goodman of Rockingham, Charles Graham of Lumberton, Edward Hanes of Winston-Salem, Paul Tine of Kitty Hawk and Ken Waddell of Chadbourn. One Republican, Rep. Debra Conrad, a Winston-Salem lawmaker who had expressed concern about the lottery provision, voted against it.
“I think what was remarkable ... was how short the debate was. I think that the minority caucus was struggling to find problems with this budget,” Tillis said. “It’s a strong budget. It sends a strong message on education. It sends a strong message on fiscal responsibility.”